Exclusive: Arjun Rampal on Paltan: JP Dutta is incredible choreographer of war sequences
As the film Paltan hits the marquee, actor Arjun Rampal, who plays the character of Colonel Rai Singh gets in an interaction with mid-day online
Arjun Rampal, who was last seen in Daddy, is back with JP Dutta's war film, Paltan. The film is based on 1967 Indo-China War, and has an ensemble cast of Jackie Shroff, Sonu Sood, Harshvardhan Rane, Gurmeet Choudhary, Luv Sinha and Siddhanth Kapoor, amongst others. In an interaction with mid-day online, the 45-year-old actor speaks about his absence from the big screen, experience working on a war-drama, and his upcoming projects. The film released on September 7.
You play Colonel Rai Singh in the film. So, what was the information you gathered as your prep for Paltan?
When you are playing a true character, you have to know everything about him. Lieutenant Rai Singh was under the British Army and was trained under them. This was during the pre-independence period. He's a strategist and also did a stint in England while on training. All those skills he would come and teach the soldiers back home because we had an arrangement with them. So, that we used to do with the British Army. My maternal grandfather was also under the British Army and fought World War 2, after which, he went to England. He fought the war in Indonesia and that's where he met my grandmom (laughs). Rai Singh was the kind of officer who led from the front. He would not be like the usual officers, who would sit in the bunker. They are warned not to go on the field but he had the kind of attitude, 'Why would I sit in the bunker?'
JP Dutta is from an old-school world. When you compare his filmmaking with the contemporary style, what differences do you find?
Of course, there's a tremendous amount of difference. Here, they see the scale, everything is large for him, and that's how he makes his movies. Even if the DOP would put the camera in a certain angle, he'll come and shift it a little bit, and the whole frame would change. The whole dynamic of the shot would change. I believe that there are directors and then there are filmmakers. So, JP sir is a filmmaker, who makes the film with a passion, a story to tell, it'll be a magnum opus with big music. I think he was also trying to get used to the digital world. He really likes the depth in his frames. He is an incredible choreographer of war sequences. The way he choreographs it is just magical. I don't think any youngster really knows that or has experienced it, and wars today have changed. It's not the soldiers going on the front, most of it is artillery or it is done by buttons now – launching rockets, destroying things.
What was the purpose behind using real bullets in the film?
Even I don't know. I think he wanted us to kill each other (laughs). Each filmmaker has his own style of doing something unique, which suddenly makes that difference between you doing something that is not real. When you hold a real bullet in hand, the whole body language, and attention and focus changes. Your alertness gets enhanced by a thousand per cent. That's what you will see in the body language of all of them. And that was the reason why he (JP Dutta) wanted us to do this. This is something that I have experienced for the first time. Usually what happens is that you are running with the gun, you know they are blank, but you'll fly around and do your 'herogiri'. Here, you can't do your 'herogiri'. You have to be completely aware on the battlefield.
Any scene in the film, where you had a meltdown or got emotional?
The scene that got me emotional was towards the end of the film, the last shot, where my character comes out and sees the carnage that is created. In the way, the whole thing was put out and it looked, it hits you. The only one thing that goes through your mind is, 'I wish there would never be a war.'
Your last film Daddy did not work at the Box Office. What expectations do you have from Paltan, and do these figures matter to you?
It bothers everybody. You make movies for more and more people to see. The more people see it, your box office numbers increases. So, yes I want people to go and see Paltan.
With the amazing bunch of boys, how would it be off camera for you'll?
It was lots of fun. Ladakh is a really beautiful place. There's so much to do there. We used to go to the monasteries and chant, meditate. Just take the bike and go around Ladakh if we were free. We would work out together or just wake up early morning, run and get exhausted. When you live together for two-and-a-half months with your co-actors, you build a camaraderie with them.
Luv Sinha mentioned that on day one, you pulled off a prank on him. Could you please share the incident with us?
Luv is a prank. He's called the 'Tinder hunter'. He's the only guy, who had Tinder installed in his phone.
Is it very difficult to adjust to the climate of Ladakh?
Yes, you get 20 per cent less oxygen there. So, you have to go there and acclimatized. Luckily, I had been to Ladakh a year before. I had gone to Sia Chein to meet the soldiers. So, I have lived there and done that. I knew what the terrain is, and how careful you have to be. So, the minute you go down to the planes, you get de-acclimatized again. It's very important for you to take those three days off to just not do too much activity for your body to get used to it. All our rooms looked like as if we were in hospitals because we all had oxygen tanks, medicines laid there in case of an emergency. The only two people who needed this were Luv Sinha and Siddhanth Kapoor. I think they are still on oxygen. (laughs)
Since 2014, you've been doing very few films, why so?
You make the choices about which film you want to be a part of. After Paltan, I started working on four films. But then, it all just comes like that. Sometimes, you get a lot of material. Sometimes, you want to take it easy. My mother was not well. So, I wanted to take it easy and be with her more.
Can you tell us about those four films?
One is a horror film and the other one is a biopic. Remaining two are thriller and fantasy film.
Indian Army to train actors for JP Dutta's 'Paltan'